How To Read Hafiz

These poems of Hafiz are my reworking of the poems' literal translation. In translating literally, much would be lost, as is the case with so much holy writing. So I go back to Hafiz and write, in English, what his writing was meant to impart in Persian.

To those unaccustomed to Sufi teaching, the poems might appear to be a "confusing" mixture. This is because they are utilizing the Sufi method of instruction, which is one that works specifically by breaking up usual patterns of thought in order to provoke contemplation, and affect both the conscious and subconscious awareness. These teachings have complex layers of thought where one symbol might connect to another in one way in the literal dimension, and connect in completely different ways at deeper levels.

In other words, Hafiz's words aren't like a painting, they're like a sculpture, they have multiple dimensions and depth.

The right way to study Hafiz or other Sufi writings is to first read the poem in its literal form, without trying to analyze it for metaphor. Then read it again, looking at each stanza separately, trying to see the message of each stanza. Then read the poem as a whole a third time, trying to tie together the various parts to get a holistic perspective.

In the latter two readings, a good mental framework to have while reading, for the sake of analysis, is to imagine you would later have to teach or explain these meanings and insights to someone else.


The Poems of Hafiz          Return to The Library